The Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Nottingham shares the concerns of HM Inspector of Prisons and we welcome the use of the Urgent Notification Procedure.
In its last Annual Report, the IMB raised concerns about safety, self-harm and the high levels of violence in the prison and has continued to do so since. We noted the continued problem of illegal drugs entering the prison which leads to bullying and debt. We also raised concerns with Ministers about the increasing number of prisoners with severe mental health problems. In the IMB’s view, prison is not a suitable environment for those who are very unwell. The combination of poor mental health and the availability of drugs in the prison contributes to the increased vulnerability of some prisoners. This also leads to challenging behaviour which makes great demands on staff, disrupting activities for other prisoners.
At the time of writing our report, inadequate staffing was a key factor in high levels of violence and assaults on both staff and other prisoners. Despite the recruitment of additional staff, many are inexperienced. It is disappointing that these problems remain.
Before a prison can achieve any of its other objectives, it must first be safe. Levels of violence against both prisoners and staff and levels of self-harm are far too high. In our last report we noted with sadness the deaths of five men during the reporting period. Since publication of the report in July 2017, our concern has grown and there were five deaths in custody in the space of a month in the autumn of 2017. The IMB has been notified on each occasion and members have spoken to those affected and asked for appropriate support to be put in place.
Despite the efforts of management and staff, the problems at Nottingham are long-standing and have now reached a point that only an urgent and meaningful response from Ministers will do.